By Ilse Mitchek
California Fashion Association
The Los Angeles region’s fashion apparel and textile complex is now ‘center stage’ for Designers, Retailers, and Manufacturers. While Los Angeles has a lot going for it, including domestic manufacturing for higher-margin contemporary merchandise, the country’s largest retail market, the style set by entertainment, and a vigorous (and diverse) cultural scene – at the moment, the driving force for the ‘cool factor’ is that L.A. is ‘the place to be’!
That has led to a growing number of designers flocking here to live, work, stage presentations and party extravaganzas. The city and fashion media proclaim the spot as the fifth fashion capital, after New York, Paris, Milan, and London. It’s developing culturally, physically, and metaphorically. However, Los Angeles does a great deal MORE business!
The shift in global creativity toward the West Coast has arguably been happening for the past several years – so why does it seem people are just now starting to pay attention?
The city’s sprawling geography allows for plenty of breathing room, literally and creatively. Designers specializing in anything from evening wear to athletic clothing (now called ‘athleisure’) to swimwear to high-end fashion sportswear are located all over the map. “There’s not a sense of being surrounded by people all doing the same thing”, stated a local designer-owner.
The culture of L.A. is open and supportive, not just for start-ups, but also to commercialize new ideas within an existing successful company. For manufacturers and retailers, there are many good reasons – besides the hip factor – to go west.
As of August 2017, Los Angeles County employed 131,800 people working in apparel, manufacturing, textile mills, clothing, and accessories, all in the wholesale business for apparel and ‘piece goods’ (textiles and trimming).
There are fashion retailers in the region from mass market to luxury stores; data analysts like the National Retail Federation (NRF) typically rank L.A. as a top-performing city, one where foreign brands often will open their first U.S. door or unveil a new retail concept. New retail outposts continue to spring up. While established stretches like Robertson Boulevard, Melrose Avenue, and Abbot Kinney Boulevard are always must-sees for their brands and display, up and coming areas include Main Street in Santa Monica, Lincoln Boulevard in Venice, Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake, and Broadway in downtown L.A.
Creative directors from Dior, Tom Ford, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, and others all visit up to four times a year. “Between having palm trees and blue skies and good bookstores and nice galleries, it’s a good place to think over what just happened in Paris and get away from that narrow fashion crowd.”, said Kris Van Assche of Dior.
LA is a unique fashion capital, and doesn’t need to emulate other city’s Fashion Weeks. This can prove to be a misstep to the region’s designers and manufacturers. As the region’s apparel and textile cluster, LA is ‘business-centric’, and, as such, has the opportunity to create its own, unique model for LA Fashion Week.